Fitness has always been a large part of my life. It wasn’t necessarily a passion at first, but a necessity. I played a different sport every season for most of my childhood and stuck with volleyball through my college years. I had always dreamed of having thin, gangly limbs and a slender frame but God had other plans for this frame of mine. Thanks to my dad, I am built more like She-Hulk than the damsel in distress. My body craves muscle, and without it things tend to go south.
Before getting pregnant I had a great low body fat percentage, was working out five days week and gained all my nutrients from a gluten free, nearly carbohydrate free diet. I was made up of protein, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats. That’s it. Fast forward to the first trimester and all this stomach of mine could keep down was crackers, extra fizzy ginger ale and bread (thankfully we were in Europe where bread is practically currency!) Soon after my appetite left, my energy followed. On the days I could actually get out of bed, my husband and I would take a short walk around our hotel or apartment and back to bed I went. My muscle mass begun to fade and my new pregnancy body- widened rib cage, expanded hips, water retention everywhere- set in.
I am thrilled to say that today, at 19 weeks pregnant, I have never loved my body more. Sure I can say that being rock solid with curves in the right places feels wonderful, and hormones plus human nature can create a self-image storm at times, but there is something about this belly and this soft frame that reminds me my body is not my own. Everything I eat, every time I rest, every choice of activity over inactivity is to nurture this little life inside me.
Since I have had my energy slowly returning, less food aversions and more control over my appetite, I have found a method of staying healthy while pregnant that is golden for me. Of course, every pregnancy is different. Our fitness levels at the start of pregnancy greatly determines our exercising while pregnant. Some women are nauseous (I’m so sorry!) for their entire 40 weeks. Some women are able to continue exercising and eating whatever they like with little change right from the first trimester on (If that was you, don’t tell me. We can’t be friends). But these are the things that have worked for me and I hope they bring a joy to your pregnancy that they have brought to mine.
Drink water with tons of ice in it. For whatever reason, in these past few months water has become kind of gross for the first time in my life. I am typically a water guzzler, but drinking a full glass was enough to make me gag sometimes. I have found that the ice helps me to drink as much water as I should be to care for this little bean. Also, nearly frozen Gatorade during a walk or workout keeps my energy up.
Aim to go for a walk every day. Walking around the neighborhood is a little ritual my husband and I have always enjoyed, but designating our daily walks as one on one time to talk about baby or anything on our minds has become the best part of the day. The walk doesn’t have to be long (it usually revolves around how much water I’ve had and how quickly I’ll have to rush home for the restroom) but just getting a bit of movement in really helps so much with my energy and mood.
Try Prenatal Yoga. I am not a yoga person. My husband is some sort of yoga ninja and absolutely loves it while I, however, am not patient enough to hold poses like that by choice. I decided to give Prenatal Yoga a try after reading about just how much the stretches and poses help with child birth. The actual yoga part of it still isn’t my very favorite, but being in a room surrounded by women at different stages of their pregnancy is so special. Once or twice a week is more than enough for me.
Embrace the smoothie. I have had a hard time lately getting in as much green food as I’d like. Unless it’s a pickle. Or a grape. Pickles and grapes do not a strong, healthy baby make. Throwing everything I lacked that day in the Vitamix lets me know I’ve done my best to nourish myself without to torture of forkfuls of spinach. (Tip: Pregnancy can be tough enough on digestion as it is. I learned the hard way: enjoy your smoothie in the morning, not the evening.)
Find a workout that doesn’t require a gym. I still make it to the gym a couple times a week for cardio and weight training, but I have all but completely lost interest in that place. The smells and the whole environment is just off-putting these days. I have found that the Tracy Anderson Pregnancy Project DVD series is exactly what I’m looking for in a workout and I’m able to do it at home. This means two things: I don’t have to put real clothes on and I don’t have to leave the house. Yes, she wears a less than full-coverage unitard and a full face of red carpet makeup. Yes the dance moves can be a little awkward, but I assure you…this workout is no joke. I feel every area that needs attention being targeted. (I’m talking to you, upper arms.)
Give yourself grace. A couple months ago, my girlfriend and I were talking about the changing body in pregnancy. This woman is a professional volleyball player, a phenomenal woman of God and was eight months pregnant with her first child. (Her son was born a few ago!) She told me something that has helped me tremendously in this time. She said “Jill, of course it’s hard to see a body you work so hard for grow and stretch in ways you couldn’t imagine, but I meditated on the fact that this is the child I prayed for. God has given me the grace to carry this baby and it is my joy to do it.” That changed everything for me.
I’d love to hear any advice on how you ladies stay fit during pregnancy and motherhood!